Ein Shinto-Schrein, die Verfassung und der Friede

Sechs Aufsätze aus dem Bulletin der Theologischen Kommission der Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), 1982

"The Tenno is not just out there but within us. It is the Japanese equivalent of original sin."

"With some exceptions, Japanese Christians, by and large, have been content to live under the Tenno (emperor) system, and have reconciled it with their faith in Jesus Christ. Consequently, they have been unable to make critical judgments, based on their faith in Jesus Christ, at crucial moments in the history of Japan. Such was the case during the second world war, when the Tenno provided a universal perspective and a divine sanction to prosecute the war which brought untold pain and suffering and death to millions, including Japanese people. Today, there seems to be a recrudescence of the same ideology. As one writer points out, military domination may have been replaced by economic and technological expansion, and military uniforms may have been replaced with civilian dress, but the ideology is the same." (from: Editorial)

 

TOMURA Masahiro: The Dual Structure of the Emperor System
TOMURA is Pastor of the United Church of Christ in Japan at Asakusa-Hokubu Church in Tokyo.
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KIDA Ken-ichi
The Imperial System and Multiple Discriminations

KIDA is Professor, Department of Theology, St. Paul's University, Tokyo.
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MIYATA Mitsuo
The Politico-Religion of Japan

MIYATA is Professor, Department of Law, Tohoku University, Sendai.
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TSUKADA Osamu
The Church, Theology and the Emperor System

TSUKADA is Professor, Department of Theology, St. Paul's University, Tokyo.
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SHOJI Tsutomu
The Ideology of the Tenno System and Christian Responsibility

SHOJI is General Secretary, The National Christian Council in Japan, Tokyo.
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SONG Choan-seng
Christ behind the Mask Dance

SONG is Associate Director, Department of Faith and Order, World Council of Churches, Geneva.
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D. Preman Niles, CCA

Editorial

"Choose this day whom you will serve"

"... but as for me and my family," continues Joshua, "we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24)
The words are from the covenant renewal ceremony at Shechem, celebrated annually, but no doubt going back to an actual historical event when these, or similar, fateful words were spoken. A choice had to be made. There could be no compromise.

Having moved out of Mesopotamia and then escaped from the bondage in Egypt into the land of Palestine, "the land flowing with milk and honey," the question for the people of Israel was "Whom do we serve?"

They could serve the gods whom their ancestors served "beyond the River" (Mesopotamia). In this case there would be no break with the past. No disruption of family traditions and religion. Or, they could serve the gods of the Amorites, the people into whose midst they had come. In this case, they could serve gods who seem to be actually providing "the milk and the honey," the plenteous harvests and the good things of life. Or, they could serve the God who came into their history, declared himself as the One who brought Israel's ancestors out of Mesopotamia, disclosed his name, Yahweh, to them, and identified himself as a people's God. As a supreme act of divine compassion and grace, he then brought these slaves out of their bondage to freedom. To be sure, this god could deliver a people from bondage, but could he provide the necessities, even the luxuries, of life in a new land in a settled agricultural situation with its own time-tested social, religious and political mores? Difficult choices. But a choice had to be made. There could be no compromise.

The essays in this issue of the CTC Bulletin raise a similar challenge in a modern situation. The situation is Japan. The challenge seems to be not simply a choice for a god but also, at the same time, a choice against a god.

With some exceptions, Japanese Christians, by and large, have been content to live under the Tenno (emperor) system, and have reconciled it with their faith in Jesus Christ. Consequently, they have been unable to make critical judgments, based on their faith in Jesus Christ, at crucial moments in the history of Japan. Such was the case during the second world war, when the Tenno provided a universal perspective and a divine sanction to prosecute the war which brought untold pain and suffering and death to millions, including Japanese people. Today, there seems to be a recrudescence of the same ideology. As one writer points out, military domination may have been replaced by economic and technological expansion, and military uniforms may have been replaced with civilian dress, but the ideology is the same. So, the challenge comes back, "Choose this day whom you will serve." For, it seems quite clear that it cannot be both Jesus Christ and the Tenno.

Even for the Japanese, the kind of claim and pervasive influence that the Tenno has over their lives, their spirits and their minds is difficult to grasp. Some critical Japanese Christians say, "The Tenno is not just out there but within us. It is the Japanese equivalent of original sin." So, the first three essays -those of TAMURA, KIDA and MIYATA -basically provide historical, sociological and political analyses of the Tenno system. They attempt to unravel the mystery and the mystique of the Tenno. One wishes that similar analyses would be undertaken in other Asian countries where too similar kinds of gods are worshipped and identified with Jesus Christ.

The essays of TSUKADA and SHOJI move beyond the analyses to raise questions about Christian obedience in this context, and engage in a theological search. This is no mere academic exercise. It involves making hard choices and taking unpopular stands. It means being accused of disloyalty and being labelled "un-Japanese". It also means being confronted by "dominating power".

It is interesting that many a time all of these Japanese writers seem to be moving in a direction opposite to that of other Asian theologians. For instance, at a time when we are placing so much emphasis on the context and contextual expressions and on the importance of the particular over against the universal, the Japanese are fighting the tyranny of the context and seem to be asserting that only the truly universal can indeed be the truly particular. It is not that one position is right and the other wrong. Such differences point to the variety of Asian contexts in which our theological search goes on, and underlines the need for a "receptive plurality" in Asia.

We end with an essay by the Taiwanese theologian, SONG Choan-5eng, who indirectly reflects on the Japanese theological struggle, and draws upon other experiences and materials from the North East region of Asia. In this context, he raises the question of who is this Jesus whom we are called to serve.

All these essays are given as an introduction to and a preparation for a Japanese theological dialogue which will be held in Tokyo in February 1983. At this meeting, the issues raised in these essays and many more will be probed.
D. Preman Niles

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